MIAMI — The Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA) is asking the region’s government leaders to reduce the isolation periods for travellers who test positive for COVID-19, in an effort to make inbound travel as seamless as possible.
The CHTA is asked that isolation timelines be brought more in line with those in the UK and the U.S. Currently the isolation period for a COVID-positive person in the U.S. is five days. In the UK, it’s seven days.
In a letter to Prime Minister Gaston Browne of Antigua and Barbuda, outgoing Chairman of CARICOM (Caribbean Community), CHTA President Nicola Madden-Greig notes that some Caribbean jurisdictions require up to 14 days in isolation.
CHTA recommends a seven-day period, says Madden-Greig, keeping in mind current findings that while the omicron variant is highly transmissible, it generally causes low level of severe illness requiring hospitalization, and a low death rate, and is less virulent for people who are vaccinated. Omicron cases also so far have faster recovery rates.
The original longer isolation timeline “presents unnecessary financial and personal hardship to residents, visitors, destinations and companies and increasingly will deter travel,” says Madden-Greig.
At the same time she commended Caribbean governments for restraining from closing borders and restricting travel. “Government policies coupled with the efforts of health and tourism officials to enforce health safety protocols have resulted in the restoration of employment and airlift to near pre-pandemic levels, higher vaccination rates for tourism-related employees, and low positivity test result rates for travelers, preventing massive business failures which would be detrimental to our long-term recovery,” she said.
Madden-Greig also applauded the region’s governments, health officials, and the tourism industry for the proactive and effective measures which have been put in place, and resulted in the region’s tourism industry recovering faster than any other area of the world.
However, “overreaction over the coming critical weeks can reverse the progress we’ve made towards recovery,” she said.
Confusion in the marketplace in the face of varied requirements by Caribbean governments could also hamper recovery. She urged greater collaboration by Caribbean governments to align entry, testing and isolation and quarantine policies.
Citing the cost and availability of COVID-19 PCR tests, which can add US$600 to travel costs for a family of four,
The CHTA is also recommending that WHO-approved antigen tests be accepted for entry, noting that The Bahamas, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Jamaica and U.S. Virgin Islands accept antigen tests and have not reported higher infection rates among travellers.